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Mill Creek bridge construction begins

Construction on the new Mill Creek Bridge officially began the morning of Monday, Nov. 3, as crews from the Unicoi County Highway Department began clearing trees to provide a right-of-way leading up to the new bridge.
In August, it was reported that the total cost of the bridge would be $815,250.16. The cost has since reached the $1 million mark due to the fact that the current setting of the bridge does not provide good enough terrain for a runaround.
“The bridge is going to be built in two halves,” said Highway Superintendent Terry Haynes. “They will build each lane one at a time. It costs so much more because we can’t put in a runaround.”
The runaround cannot be installed because of the high density-nature of Mill Creek, according to Haynes. Many of the subsidiary creeks and rivers in Flag Pond and the surrounding community funnel into Mill Creek, which makes setting up a runaround at the bridge unpractical and simply not doable. Haynes said that the tiles that would have to be installed would simply not be sufficient enough to withstand the volume of water.
On Monday, crews armed with excavators, track hoes and chainsaws began taking down the treeline surrounding where the new bridge is going to pass. The current bridge is roughly 18 feet across; the new one will need to be 22 feet across, thus they need to widen the road. The old bridge was built in 1976 and repeated winters have taken their toll on the structure. Haynes said that the bridge is worn to the point where it undulates as vehicles pass over it.
Despite the increase in costs, the county is still locked into a deal with the state where the state will pay 98 percent of the entire project while the county pays two percent. As of Monday, crews have 220 days to complete the project.
The bridge will be a state-certified bridge. It will have concrete guardrails and the structure itself will be built entirely of concrete. The bridge is expected to be over 100 feet long.
“This bridge should stand forever,” said Haynes in regards to the concrete construction.
In August, Haynes indicated that the bridge could serve as a catalyst for development in Rocky Fork.
Crews have also installed traffic lights at each end of the bridge that were mandated by the state.
While Mill Creek is under construction, Haynes hopes that work on Upper Higgins Creek Bridge, which is next on the docket, can get underway.
“We’re waiting on Tysinger, Hampton and Partners to secure the right of way for Upper Higgins Creek,” said Haynes. “If they can secure it, then we will go ahead and do our two percent up there.”